The Bestest Mother

It’s Mother’s Day, and time for me to talk about my mother

Here she is at 18. Mommy told me she made that dress out of tube-knit fabric. All you had to do was cut some slits, and there was your dress. My mom wasn’t a big sewer, she was an artist. When she was in eighth grade she was accepted into the Music and Art High School in New York. Later on, she went to the Cooper Union in New York and learned there until she got married and moved out west.

Margareta Regina Nebel Jennings. That’s what she’d write on the back of her paintings. I remember watching her nail the canvas to the wooden frame, balancing little nails in her mouth while she stretched the linen fabric and hammered it down. I loved the feel of that canvas, and it smelled so nice.

Mommy loved to paint people, and when she wasn’t painting someone in town, she’d paint us.

Here’s a painting she did before I came along.

Along with the kids, you can see a cat, tortoise, and a bunny.

We always had about as many animals in the house as we had people.

She named the painting Six of my Children

I was number seven.

When you’re near the end of a big family, people always figure you were just an add-on. No one planned you, you just showed up.

But here’s my version

They were waiting for me to come. When Mommy had her first child, she asked the doctor,

“Is it Lucy?”

No. No Lucy yet.

So then she had her second child,

“Is it Lucy?” No. Still no Lucy.

Well, they just kept trying to get me to come down to earth. I was the seventh. Seven is a lucky number. I’m so special.

And then they had a couple more for me to boss around.

That’s my version, and I like it.

This is me and my big sister Robin at the river.

And me and my little sister Sheila. I was always the one with messy curly hair…. that hasn’t changed.

Learning to Sew

Every spring Mommy would make us matching Easter dresses. Lent wasn’t much fun, but getting those dresses ready was. Easter was great, the dresses had to be done before that special day. The rest of the year was a different story… sometimes the projects sorta got lost in a pile somewhere underneath something in the house.

When I was about 10, I watched her cut out all the pieces to make a dress for me. It was a neat blue-y-green fabric that reversed into green-y-blue on the other side. There the pieces sat, in a box in her bedroom. I really wanted that dress, so I figured if I was going to get to wear it before I grew too big for the pattern, I’d better make it myself. So I did. I’m sure I bugged her to no end with all the help I needed.

I learned to sew through the bathroom door.

I’d knock on the door and ask her what to do, and she’d tell me, but never would that door open. One time I walked in on her by mistake.

Oops, sorry!

Now I knew her secret. She was sitting on the edge of the bathtub, fully dressed, reading a book. That was the only way she could get any peace.

Our friends liked to come to our house, it was always a mess, but we had fun.

People in town would tell me she was the nicest lady in Needles

Of course, they were right. I never heard her talk poorly about anyone, she never gossiped, and helped people who were different, people others made fun of.

Gravel Gertie

There was this little old lady we called Gravel Gertie.

She lived in some shack out in the desert, and there were all kinds of stories about how mean she was. She’d run out of her house with her gun if you got too close to her place.

One summer day it was just me in the car with my mom, and she noticed Gravel Gertie walking down the street.

Summer days in Needles are hot, really hot. 115 degrees is normal. My mom stopped and offered her a ride.

I was terrified. Not Gravel Gertie, she’ll kill us!

I still remember the woman’s beautiful clear blue eyes as she sat in the back seat, smiling and chatting with my mom. She had a dirty old dress on and looked just like some character from the Andy Griffith Show. She was so thankful to my mom, and when we dropped her off, I couldn’t see any place where a person could live. Gravel Gertie just wandered into the desert.

Mommy taught me to accept people, you never know what they are like inside.

Still the Nicest Lady in Town

About a year ago, what we were afraid was coming, came.

Mommy, who was always on the go, always driving somewhere, couldn’t drive anymore.

She couldn’t be on her own, either.

She had Dementia.

We found a nice nursing home for her, and she could have her dog with her too.

Sounded good, but it was hard. It was hard to see her unable to do what she wanted when she wanted. But she didn’t complain, well, not much anyway. Dementia is that way.

Mommy just accepted it. At least she had her dog. She had him with her a whole year, but it’s kind of hard for someone with Dementia to keep after a rambunctious dog, and a few weeks ago we had to take her little Chico away, he’s with my sister now.

I was afraid she’d be too sad to go on, but when I call her, she never complains.

Mommy still, even with Dementia, accepts life as it happens, doesn’t judge, and wants us to know she’s okay. Even if she isn’t, really.

This photo is my family at around 1969 - I love how my brothers are trying to look cool. I'm sitting next to Mommy.

Here’s Mommy when she was about my age, with her mother, Winifred. My house was just being built.

And here she is a couple of years ago, with my daughter. In the same house!

I am very lucky.

Happy Mother’s Day! 


Your mom and my mom would have been best friends! They sound like they were cut from the same cloth. My mom wasn’t a true artist like your mom, but her drawings always made me smile! ? All the same they seem to have been kindred spirits, just like us. ❤

I guess that’s why were are both a little crazy too!  Bestest moms make the Bestest girls.

Lucy, thanks for sharing. I can see why you are the person you are.


Thanks, Joy,
And Happy Mother’s Day!

I loved your mom, have charcoals she drew of me at a few ages and I cherish them. What a lovely story, I adore your perspective of them waiting for you and her private “getaway”. As for me, I preferred the lovely noise and constant activity at your house, like a city bustling with life, although I now can appreciate a mothers need for a few moments. Thank you for sharing this glimpse of her with us.

Hi Nancy,
We had fun, didn’t we? I had fun at your house too. I remember when I’d spend the night, at dinner time you all just sat anywhere at the table to eat. You didn’t have your “places” at the table like we did.  And there was actually milk in the fridge.


Happy Mother’s Day to you, too!

My mother and yours were friends and I went to school with your brothers David and Tom. My mother and my Aunt Sara loved your mother’s sketches. She did one for each of them as well as for me and my twin sister, Martha. It’s been a long time since I lived in Needles but I remember your mother always with a smile and a friendly hello. Tell her one of Edna Hoskins’ twin daughters wishes her a Happy Mother’s Day, as I wish one for you also. Very nice tribute to your mother.

    Thank you, Marie,
    I remember you, and the days of St. Anne’s church. I tried to play the flute but was never very good, not like you. I sat at one end of the flute section and you sat at the other. I will tell Mommy hello for you, and Happy Mother’s Day!

    Wow Lucy, I really loved reading this. I have only positive memories of your parents from School and from Church. Thinking about it I have only positive memories of every member of your family, how unusual, how wonderful.

    Lucy, this is so perfect! How come I had to find it on Cheryl’s FB? Must be I’m not signed up—I’ll do it right now!

    Thank you for the beautiful article, Your mother and I were best friends in Music & Art and Cooper. We were each others Maid of Honor. I’m happy to know she had all the children she wanted. She said, “A big pot of spaghetti goes a long way.” You brought back wonderful memories.

        Oh, I am so happy you visited my post! I heard so many stories about your friendship, Mommy had such fun with you. We still have the wedding pictures with you as the Maid of Honor. I’ll tell her I heard from you!